Hello again, I’m still working out the details of the Solar Air Heating Wall for the cottage retrofit so no video this week. Instead I’d like to share a couple of interesting developments which have just come to my notice in the last couple of days.
liveability.com.au Aims to Convert Agents of Real Estate into Agents of Change
Yesterday I was invited to a meeting (and delicious dinner) with Cecille Weldon, creator of the website liveability.com.au. On an interesting side note, it turns out that I had met her once before, thirty years ago at her brother’s 21st Birthday Party. One of my friends from architecture school was dating her brother Harold at the time and a group of us were invited up to the Hunter Valley for an ‘Out of Africa’ themed party which included joy rides in his father’s Tiger Moth bi-plane. I vividly remember my turn in the plane as well as one of the funnest parties I’ve ever been to… but that’s another story.
What Cecille is doing at liveability.com.au is far more relevant to our work here at the Greeny Flat. She started the website while working for a national real estate agency and it has recently been taken over by the CSIRO. That in itself is remarkable. The CSIRO is in the business of developing technology and selling it to others to commercialise, not the other way around. The fact that they’ve bought it shows that the CSIRO must see enormous potential for this program to bring about positive change.
Briefly, what liveability.com.au aims to do is to convert real estate agents into agents of change for the better. The issue it is attempting to address is the fact that the real estate industry does not currently attribute fair value to the sustainability features of a home that is listed for sale. Now, you won’t find the word ‘sustainability’ anywhere on Cecille’s website because research shows that terms like ‘energy efficiency’ and ‘sustainability’ have been so bastardised and over-used that they actively turn people off. So Cecille talks in terms of ‘reducing running costs’ and ‘improving comfort’. Those are benefits that everyone wants and can agree on, regardless of their political or environmental leanings (I guess this means I’m stuffed because my whole website is riddled with ‘sustainability’s and ‘energy efficiency’s… oh well).
The problem is that, because the real estate industry doesn’t value sustainability, the money that people spend doing things like adding insulation, replacing windows or installing solar power systems is often not reflected in the price of the home when it comes time to sell. This has the effect of discouraging many homeowners (particularly property investors) from investing money in those features that do improve the comfort, reduce the running costs and improve the environmental, social and financial returns on their investment. Instead they tend to focus on granite counter tops, fancy bathrooms, and the other cosmetic improvements that the real estate industry tells them will ‘improve the resale value of their property’.
So liveability.com.au was designed to train real estate agents how to recognise ‘The 17 Things’ that are most important in improving the environmental and energy performance of a home. Cecille has done a major amount of research to identify these ’17 Things’ that everyone can agree on. It’s not a comprehensive list of sustainability improvements by any means but it’s a great place to start to get agents, buyers and sellers to value these features. Here’a screen shot from the website with the basic list of ‘The 17 Things’.
As an advocate for the advantages of Passive Solar Design, I am very pleased to see that ‘The 17 Things’ include many of my own list of 10 Simple Steps to Passive Solar Design. It also encourages people to consider the Climate Zone in which the house is located and the advantages of ‘Living Locally‘, which is described as
‘Living close to a vibrant community with local produce, community gardens, well maintained bikeways and walkways helps reduce the costs of transport and is great for your health too!’
The reason all of this might be important to you, dear reader, is that the CSIRO has BIG plans for liveability.com.au. In fact within the next four years, ‘The 17 Things’ could become the standard for how homes are assessed at the point of sale. This means that the money you might have already spent or might be thinking about spending on any of ‘The 17 Things’ has a very good chance of paying you back in terms of increased market value when you go to sell.
When you think about it, it’s quite brilliant because real estate agents really are the ‘middle man’ (or woman) between developers/builders/investors/sellers on the one hand and home buyers/renters on the other. By tapping into a common desire for ‘improved comfort and reduced running costs’, liveability.com.au may turn out to be a major agent of change itself and really help to move sustainability into the mainstream of Australian home design and construction. As Cecille would tell you, it’s all about the way we communicate and I wish her the very best of luck.
New ‘Green’ Brewery Opens Today in Mittagong
On the subject of ‘Living Locally’, Cintia and I just got back from a brief visit to our new, local, ‘Green’ brewery. Started by a young couple, Deb from Oz and Jacob from Texas, Eden Brewery has just opened it’s doors today. So, in the purely altruistic spirit of supporting a local business, we thought we’d better go along for a taste. And I have to say, the beer is delicious. In fact my good friend Miles (who has been known to brew a few himself and has sampled ales all over the world) took a few sips, sat back and declared, ‘I’ve died and gone to heaven’.
Eden has six beers on tap right now ranging from a refreshing, summery ‘Birch Wit’ to a dark and robust ‘Ebony Porter’. Cintia liked the Wit, I especially enjoyed the ‘Australian Palm Pale’ and Miles was last seen heading back to Eden with another mate in search of more of the ‘Giant Redwood Imperial IPA’. The fact is though, that all three of us enjoyed all six of their delicious brews. As Miles put it ‘I can’t disagree with any of them’.
Apart from the excellent beer, Eden Brewery is also doing their best to be a positive agent for change too. Not only do they brew their beer using 100% Green Power, they are also committed to donating 10% of their profits to Oxfam with the goal of bringing clean drinking water to people who don’t have any.
I wish Deb and Jacob the very best with their endeavour and I encourage you to drop by the next time you’re in Mittagong. They’re open 11am-8pm, Wednesday to Sunday at 1/19 Cavendish St, Mittagong. So…do youself, the community, the planet and your taste buds a favour and try a cold one at Eden Brewery.